What I Learned in My Debut as a Dallas Comedy House Stand-up "Headliner" (Video)

In Death by Microphone, local Brit and barbecue blogger Gavin Cleaver attended stand-up comedy classes at the Dallas Comedy House and reported back for our amusement and education.

Then, on Friday, it happened: His stand-up debut, at DCH's showcase for class graduates. Inexplicably sideways video evidence is above. Read his previous entries in the comedy archive.

1. My body can produce a lot of urine when it wants to Seriously. Not on stage, thankfully, but I must have peed four times in 20 minutes in the buildup to going on stage.

You see, beforehand we drew cards to see what order everyone would end up going on in, and I ended up going eighth of eight. Which, in a way, means I was the "headliner" -- a meaningless title when given at random, surely -- but also that I had to sit backstage listening to everyone else perfectly recite their sets for over an hour before I got on stage. I waited for one of those chumps (sorry, guys) to make a mistake and forget part of their set. None of them did. I don't think I've peed since Friday now, as the relief of actually doing my set has been so great.

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2. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse In the exact opposite of what I had been doing the last few weeks, I spent the lead-up repeating my set over and over again, to the point that not only did I manage to do it word-for-word perfectly on Friday night but that I will never actually be able to forget what I said. All I was scared of forgetting was the opening line, as I knew from that point on it would be muscle memory. If I hadn't rehearsed such an excessive amount, I would still be on that stage, trying to remember whatever it is I was meant to be saying.

3. Never drink beforehand The other week in class, I was as nervous as usual, so I went to the Anvil for a quick beer. It wasn't even that strong, but bizarrely enough everything seemed to fall out of my head afterward, to the point where I could barely remember what I meant to do. It was only one beer. The difference between that and the clarity of thought being sober provided me on Friday night was an illustration of both the powers of mental agility required to do this right and the power of beer to quickly eliminate said agility.

4. It's pretty useful to have a professional to point out when you're not actually being funny Really, without comedy sensei Dean Lewis, my entire set would probably have been one rambling story about how I got drunk this one time and the hilarity that ensued. Nervous as I was, if I had been doing this without eight weeks of support and feedback from both Lewis and my classmates, it would have been a thousand times worse in terms of both nerves and content. I went into the class with a pretty snarky attitude ("yeah, like someone can teach me to be funny! I'm so hilarious already!") but by God, if you want to do stand-up and you don't want to be less funny than a budgeting conference call with corporate HQ, this is money well spent. Plus, you might even make a friend or two.

5. I will almost certainly never do this again That's it for me. I'll never get an audience that nice again: Everyone was there to support someone, not just there to shout at terrible comedians, and I don't want to get arrested for punching hecklers. Also? The sheer amount of knots I tied myself into beforehand was not a pleasant experience.

Neither was standing there, with a room of people hanging on your every word. I wanted it to be over so much that at several points I wished people would stop laughing so I could get on with the damn thing. Yes, yes, I know. "Audience laughed too much" isn't a complaint. Even though it went fine, I still can't think of anything worse than repeating that whole experience again and having people not laugh. Doing the set has failed to convince me this is a low-pressure situation. Therefore, I retire at the top of my game, with a 100 percent headlining record. I am demonstrably the greatest comedian of all time.


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